Sunset Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA

Sunset Peak


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  • Location: Angeles National Forest south of Mt. Baldy. From the west, take the 210 Freeway to Baseline Road (exit 52) and turn left. Head west for 0.2 mile to Padua Avenue. Go 1.8 miles to Mt. Baldy Road and turn right. Follow Mt. Baldy Road for 7.1 miles and make a hairpin left turn on Glendora Ridge Road, shortly before Mt. Baldy Village. Drive for 4.2 miles, passing the old trail head. The current trail head is a large dirt lot on the left side of the road, just past mile marker 7.90. From points east, take the 210 Freeway to Mountain Avenue (exit 54). Follow Mountain Avenue north for a total of 4.2 miles (it becomes Shinn Rd.) to Mt. Baldy Road. Turn right and follow Mt. Baldy Road 4.7 miles to Glendora Ridge Road. Make a hard left and follow Glendora Ridge Road for 4.2 miles to the trail head, as described above. The approximate coordinates of the trail head are N 34.2189, W 117.7125.
  • Agency: Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel River Ranger District
  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,400 feet
  • Difficulty Rating:  PG-13 (distance, elevation gain)
  • Suggested time: 3.5 hours
  • Best season: Year round but possible snow during the winter and hot during the summer
  • Dogs: Allowed (exercise caution on warm days; some rocky terrain may be rough on their paws; watch out for broken glass and metal)
  • Cell phone reception: Weak on the summit; none for most of the route
  • Water: None
  • Restrooms: None
  • Camping/backpacking: The summit is a possible campsite, although this hike is usually done as a day trip
  • Recommended gear: sun hat, sunblock, hiking poles, insect repellent
  • More information: Trip descriptions here, here and here
  • Rating: 7

Updated November 2018

This perennial favorite of L.A. hikers offers the best of both worlds. It is high enough (5,796 feet) and offers enough shade to provide a break from the Inland Empire’s notorious summer heat while being too low to accumulate enough snow and ice for hazardous winter conditions. Its significant length and elevation gain make it a good training hike for veterans but its moderate grade and straightforward navigation are assets for beginning hikers who want to explore the Angeles National Forest and bag a peak. It is a short drive from the Inland Empire and San Gabriel Valley but feels like an escape. There are downsides: hiking on a fire road is not everyone’s cup of tea and the views to the south are often inundated by smog and haze, but these drawbacks aren’t deal breakers: even if the L.A. basin is obscured, the hike features excellent views of Mt. Baldy, the Three Ts and Lookout Mountain and hikers who are tired of the road can challenge themselves on a pair of short, steep fire breaks below the summit. (The 8-mile distance figure assumes you will be taking the road the entire way; the fire breaks can shave a mile or so off, but are unlikely to cut the time, due to their steepness).

Until recently, the hike began at Cow Saddle. Parking is now off limits in the large dirt lot that used to serve the trail head; some hikers park on the side of Glendora Ridge Road by the start of the trail, but the recommended approach is to continue a few miles southwest to an alternate trail head. This route is slightly longer and has more elevation gain than the hike from Cow Saddle. After passing the white metal gate, begin climbing the winding dirt road. The exposed lower portion of the road features views to the west before entering the shade of live oaks, Douglas firs and maples.

At 2.2 miles from the start (750 feet of elevation gain) you reach a Y-junction where you join the route from Cow Saddle. Continue uphill for 0.6 mile to a hairpin turn. Here you have the option of continuing on the road or scrambling up a fire break 400 feet to just below the summit. If you stick with the road, it continues its gradual ascent for 0.7 mile, where it reaches a saddle. Make a hard left and follow the trail a short distance where you will once again have the choice of a fire break (200 feet in 0.2 mile) or the road, which by now is effectively a single-track. Either way you will find yourself on the top of Sunset Peak.

The summit is marked by a large tree and multiple small yucca plants. You can also see the remains of a lookout tower that stood on the summit from 1926 (when it was moved from Lookout Mountain) to 1971.

Sunset Peak hike, Angeles National Forest
Start of the hike off Glendora Mountain Road
Sunset Peak hike, Angeles National Forest
Looking west about a half mile from the trail head
Sunset Peak hike, Angeles National Forest
Heading toward the junction on the fire road
Sunset Peak, Angeles National Forest
Looking northwest from before the junction
Sunset Peak, Angeles National Forest
Heading uphill from the junction with the Cow Saddle route
Sunset Peak, Angeles National Forest
Lookout remains on the summit
Sunset Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA
Northwest view from the summit
Sunset Peak, Angeles National Forest, CA
Lone tree on the summit

Text and photography copyright 2018 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.

 

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3 thoughts on “Sunset Peak

  1. I just hiked this peak last week – thought it was incredibly scenic. I’m a little wimpy and took the Forest Service Road the whole way up, but next time, plan to take a shortcut or two. Going back anytime soon?!

    [K]

  2. Did the fire road up to the peak this last weekend. Very scenic trail on the way up with nice views and a fair amount of shade from the pines. Trail was in excellent shape and easy to navigate. This is a great trail to introduce someone to the beauty of Angeles National Forest without being so difficult to scare them off from future trips to the area.

    Also, if you drive in a long way to do this hike I would highly recommend a side trip over to San Antonio Falls. Even in summer there is water flowing and its a nice 1.8 mile round trip hike to relax with after Sunset Peak.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the hike, it’s a good challenge but as you point out navigation and trail condition are easy enough so almost anyone can do the hike. Good tip too on San Antonio Falls (also written up on this site!)

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